Impact Varies on 'A Day Without Immigrants' Hundreds of thousands of immigrants marched, and scores of businesses closed, for what some called the "Great American Boycott." But what impact did the "Day Without Immigrants" have on the United States?
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Impact Varies on 'A Day Without Immigrants'

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Impact Varies on 'A Day Without Immigrants'

Impact Varies on 'A Day Without Immigrants'

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This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is on assignment in Baghdad. I'm John Ydstie.


And I'm Renee Montagne. It's the day after 'The Day Without Immigrants,' and cities across the country are still assessing the impact of all those marches that filled the streets yesterday. Up to a million legal and illegal immigrants stayed away from their jobs, hoping to send the message that without them, much of the nation's business grinds to halt.

There was also plenty of criticism that the protesters had gone too far. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Los Angeles.

CARRIE KAHN reporting:

It was a day of marches, from New York to Florida, heading west to Houston, Denver, and Phoenix. One of the last and biggest marches of the day was in Los Angeles, where nearly half a million people filled the streets. One of them was Spanish-language radio DJ Eddie Sotelo, known as "El Piolin." He's been credited with drawing out the huge crowd. Sotelo told demonstrators that they should learn English, become citizens, and most importantly, register to vote.

Mr. EDDIE SOTELO (Radio Host, Piolín por la Mañana, KSCA, Los Angeles): That's another way to demonstrate that we love the United States, because we came to succeed.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

Mr. SOTELO: (Speaking foreign language)

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

KAHN: Dressed in white t-shirts and waving American flags, the sea of protesters stretched for miles.

Ms. NANCY OSUNEN(ph): (Speaking foreign language)

KAHN: Marcher Nancy Osunen, an illegal immigrant who works as a dental assistant, says she wore a white shirt with Mexico emblazoned across it to show people where she's from, but she held the American flag high. Her 14-year-old daughter Nevil(ph) says she worries about her mom's future.

KAHN: You worry she'll be deported?

NEVIL (Osunen's Daughter): Oh, yeah, because she's my mom and like, I worry about her.

KAHN: Nevil was one of thousands of southern California school kids who skipped class. In Los Angeles alone, more than 70,000 students missed school. With large numbers of people skipping work, too, boycott backers say their impact was widely felt.

In Tucson, restaurant owner Carlota Flores(ph) stayed open because her workers showed up. She says she didn't appreciate the threat of a boycott.

Ms. CARLOTA FLORES (Restaurant Owner, Tucson, Arizona): To take a day off and hurt the country and try to show that you're bigger than what the United States stands for, I can't tolerate that.

KAHN: In some cities, the boycott provoked a shopping binge by anti-illegal immigration groups. Some waited until yesterday to purchase big-ticket items, and others protested the protesters.

In Atlanta, Randy Parker says he has no sympathy for those who come to this country illegally.

Mr. RANDY PARKER: That you come the right way, the way that everybody else suffered to do, and they don't want that. They want to stand up and protest. This is how America is going to be taken over without a shot being fired.

Crowd: (chanting) USA! USA! USA! USA!

KAHN: In Chicago, hundreds of thousands of marchers jammed the city's Union Park in one of the largest demonstrations in the country. Unlike many protests, this one included not just Latinos, but Asians, Irish, and Poles, like John Sdtaka(ph) and his wife, Jana(ph).

Mr. JOHN SDTAKA: I am not criminal. I am immigrant from Poland, and I want to be legal in here, in this country.

Ms. JANA SDTAKA: It's because these are our brothers--they are our brothers. They are working like we are working.

KAHN: In Lumberton, North Carolina, the streets were filled with mostly Mexican immigrants who work at the world's largest hog plant. Juan(ph), who declined to give his last name, says most of the 6,000 workers at the Smithfield Slaughterhouse skipped work.

JUAN: (Speaking foreign language)

KAHN: He says the marchers are hoping to get some sort of amnesty.

(Soundbite of car horns)

KAHN: Back in L.A., as traffic along the city's busy Wilshire corridor came to a halt, marchers Socovo Lopez(ph) and his wife Ana Ramirez(ph) said they waited until after work to come protest with their two children.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. SOCOVO LOPEZ: (Speaking foreign language)

KAHN: Lopez says he hopes Congress will grant them some sort of way to get citizenship. He's been here for 18 years working illegally. Dental Assistant Nancy Osunen says she's also hopeful that the protests will convince Congress to do something for immigrants.

Ms. OSUNEN: (Speaking foreign language)

KAHN: She says she wants to follow the rules and live here legally. She says nobody wants to go back to hiding in the shadows.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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